One of the least researched phenomena within the alpine regions of mountain biomes is the combination of primitive plants, algae, fungi, and lichens that are generally referred to as biological soil crusts. Sites containing well-developed biological soil crusts were examined in a variety of alpine, non-forested, vegetated landscapes in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington, USA. For each site, data were recorded for percent ground cover of biological soil crusts, slope aspect, and slope gradient of the terrain where the crust communities were located. For all of the sites, biological soil crusts were common, with a percent ground cover median of 29% and a range of 11% to 73%. The arrangement of the biological soil crusts on all sites was quite similar: all were clumped, as opposed to single, and random, as opposed to uniform. All of the soil crusts were found on soil exposed to direct sunlight. Few, if any, crusts were found in the shade of heavy forbs, or forest, or under accumulations of organic litter. When biological soil crusts were found associated with higher-order vegetation, it was with sparse graminoids, ericaceous woody shrubs, and stunted or krummholz Pinaceae trees. The biological soil crusts from this study exist on all locally undisturbed soil slope-gradients from 0% to almost 100%, and occurred on all aspects except for those in the Southwest quadrant. This study contains an extended literature review for desert and high latitude circumpolar crusts, as well as alpine biological soil crusts. Studies of biological soil crusts in subalpine and alpine environments are not common; it is hoped that this study will stimulate more research interest in these often overlooked pioneer biotic communities.
|Commitee:||Glew, Katherine A., Riedel, Jon L., Svensen, Claus R.|
|School Location:||United States -- Arizona|
|Source:||DAI-B 76/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Ecology, Soil sciences, Environmental science|
|Keywords:||Alpine environment, Alpine geomorphology, Biological soil crusts, North cascade mountains|
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